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  • Most people know that pregnancy and alcohol consumption don’t mix. But what about before the pregnancy? Does alcohol affect fertility as well? 

    The answer is yes. Alcohol, especially in large amounts, does affect male and female fertility. It increases the time it takes for someone to get pregnant and can affect the health of the fetus.

    The effects of alcohol on your reproductive health are something you should likely consider when deciding you want to have a baby.

    How Drinking Alcohol Affects Male Fertility

    For men, heavy drinking can cause impotence, reduce sex drive, and affect sperm quality and sperm count. 

    Heavy Drinking & Binge Drinking

    Studies have repeatedly shown that heavy alcohol consumption is one of the major factors that lead to male infertility. For men, heavy alcohol intake is more than five drinks within a 2 hour period or more than 15 drinks per week. 

    Binge drinking affects male fertility as well while low or moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t seem to have any effect at all.

    Sperm Production & Hormone Levels

    Alcohol abuse also impacts a male’s testicles (it can shrink them), hypothalamus, and anterior pituitary gland. Because of this, it also impacts sperm production and hormones like testosterone and estrogen. 

    All these things reduce fertility and make it more difficult for a couple to become pregnant.

    How Drinking Alcohol Affects Female Fertility

    For women, heavy alcohol use is more likely to bring on heavy or irregular periods as well as fertility problems. Heavy alcohol use for women means seven or more drinks a week or more than three drinks in one sitting. 

    Difficulty Conceiving 

    Alcohol use can also affect ovulation which can make it very difficult to conceive. Since getting pregnant can depend on timing and when the menstrual cycle takes place, drinking alcohol can make conceiving very challenging.

    Heavy alcohol use can also prevent the fertilized egg from properly implanting in the uterus. This can cause a loss of pregnancy before the woman even knows she’s pregnant.

    Increased Risk Of Menstrual/Reproductive Disorders

    Alcohol can also lead to damage to the reproductive system, alter estrogen and testosterone levels in the body, and put women at greater risk for menstrual and reproductive disorders.

    Because of this, most healthcare professionals advise against drinking while trying to conceive. 

    Alcohol, Fertility, & Lifestyle Factors

    While drinking a large amount of alcohol does have a big impact on fertility, so do unhealthy lifestyle choices. Alcohol abuse may co-occur with other unhealthy choices like:

    • poor eating habits
    • weight gain
    • unprotected sex that leads to sexually transmitted diseases
    • lack of exercise
    • malnutrition

    Alcohol & IVF Treatment

    Alcohol use also has a negative impact on the efficacy of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Studies have found that women who go through IVF treatment who drink one or more alcoholic beverages per day are twice as likely to miscarriage than those who didn’t drink.

    Men who drink alcohol up to one month before fertility treatment also saw an increased risk of a miscarriage as well.

    The journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, also found that women starting IVF treatment who had four or more drinks per week were 16% less likely to have a live birth. When both the woman and the man drank, the likelihood of live birth was even lower.

    Alcohol’s Effect On Pregnancy

    Alcohol use in the early pregnancy can also cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the baby as well as an increased risk of losing the fetus. 

    Just three weeks after fertilization, alcohol-related birth defects can affect the developing embryo. These birth defects can affect the development of the brain, heart, and central nervous system.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol during pregnancy can also attribute to low birth weight, stillbirth, miscarriage, and premature birth.

    If you or a loved one is dealing with alcohol abuse while trying to conceive, please call our helpline to learn about our treatment options.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) - Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Men's Health
    Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) - Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Women's Health
    Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) - Key Findings: The effects of alcohol use during pregnancy and later developmental outcomes: An analysis of previous studies
    Fertility Research and Practice - Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much?
    Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences - Alcohol and fertility
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Alcohol and pregnancy

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on August 13, 2021
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